Senator Rand Paul kept Senator Mike Rounds from making his maiden floor speech yesterday afternoon. That might be enough reason to nominate Paul for President.
Senator Paul pre-empted Senator Rounds’s anti-regulatory whining to filibuster the Patriot Act. If everything else were equal, that would be enough to get me to vote for Paul for President.
Senator Paul recognizes that while Rounds and other corporatists fake their conservatism by blasting regulations that protect Americans from corporate predation, the Republican Party has collaborated with the Democratic Party to support the Patriot Act, a fearful surrender of liberty to a false sense of security. Rand spoke for eleven hours yesterday about our unconstitutional police state:
He spoke about the bulk collection of data. He spoke about civil forfeiture. He spoke about Section 213 of the Patriot Act, “this whole sneak-and-peek” that allows the government to come into a person’s house. He spoke about criminal justice. And spying. And a 1928 court case. And the Ninth Amendment. Every half-hour or so a new stenographer came over to stand by Paul’s desk, relieving the previous one.
Most of all, Paul spoke about how the Patriot Act allows for the collection of bulk surveillance. “We should be in open rebellion, saying enough’s enough,” he said [Katie Zezima, “Rand Paul Speaks 11 Hours Against Patriot Act Renewal,”] Washington Post, 2015.05.21].
Opposition to the security state is one of the few points that positively distinguishes Paul from the fraidy cats running for President:
Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have vociferously defended the need for surveillance. Cruz is a sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, a compromise bill that would end bulk collection but allow the data to remain with private companies.
Paul voted against a version of Cruz’s USA Freedom Act last year because he said it did not go far enough, enraging some privacy advocates who claim his vote killed a chance at reform. Paul said earlier this week he would not support the USA Freedom Act.
Paul, who can appear disinterested and aloof on the campaign trail, grows animated when talking about privacy and the Fourth Amendment, telling crowds that the “phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of [the government’s] damn business,” telling sympathetic crowds that he represents the “leave me alone” coalition — people who do not want the government infringing on their personal liberties — and that the government is constantly overstepping its bounds into the lives of ordinary Americans.
“May the Fourth Amendment be with you!” a man shouted at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., earlier this month. The crowd went wild [Zezima, 2015.05.21].
Has the Patriot Act made us safer? Senator Paul has a Democratic ally who says it hasn’t:
“I’ve been trying to close this program since 2006, and it’s always been part of the same pattern,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who believes Americans need better privacy safeguards. “Those who want the status quo wait pretty much until the last minute—they say it’s a dangerous world [and] we have to have this. There’s no question it’s a dangerous world. I’m on the Intelligence Committee, I certainly agree with that. But this is a program that does not make America safer and impedes our liberties” [Alex Rogers, “The Patriot Act’s Last Defenders,” National Journal, 2015.05.20].
The American Civil Liberties Union has a poll showing 80% of likely voters are concerned about the Patriot Act’s bulk surveillance and want at least the protection of a warrant to authorize such data collection.
Senator Mike Rounds thinks what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks, that warrantless data collection is just great:
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a former governor, said the briefings have taught him the data collection is an important program that can’t be allowed to expire. He added that the House’s work is untested and could leave the country vulnerable.
“I don’t want to see this program go away,” he said. “We don’t want to give this up without having a viable alternative that’s been vetted and we know will be successful” [Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett, “Mitch McConnell Plays Hardball on PATRIOT Act,” Politico, 2015.05.19].
The House would at least modify the Patriot Act to ban the National Security Agency from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to conduct such surveillance. (Rep. Kristi Noem is at least a co-sponsor of that measure, along with 64 other Republicans and 75 Democrats. But in the past, she has stuck with Big Brother and backed unnecessary surveillance.) Neither chamber wants the other’s plan, so we could luck into a stalemate that would let the Patriot Act expire on June 1.
Rand Paul would likely wreak other havoc as President. But he is the only Presidential candidate calling out the oxymoron of the Patriot Act, “the most unpatriotic of acts.” I wholeheartedly endorse his efforts to challenge the Presidential field, not to mention Senator Rounds and his other Capitol Hill colleagues, to speak honestly about the Constitutional rights we have trampled for the illusory security of the Patriot Act.